Congratulations on your marriage!
Have your spouse living abroad, and you, as a U.S. citizen, already chose the United States and decided to live in this country permanently? If that is so, you are ready to learn about the process of getting a green card through marriage as your best option and help your spouse and apply for a green card and permanent residence.
What is a marriage-based green card?
There are two categories of U.S. visas: immigrant and nonimmigrant visas.
Immigrant visas are designed for foreign nationals who want to live permanently in the United States and want to seek permanent residence, such as fiances of a U.S citizen, while nonimmigrant visas are for those foreigners who intend to enter the United States temporarily so they have nonimmigrant status.
First, let’s make it clearer on what the green card through marriage is: The spouse of a U.S. citizen is an “immediate relative.”
This means that you, as a couple who are already married, and one of you is a U. S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, the foreign-born spouse can become a green cardholder. The first step in this process to take is to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.
A marriage green card will allow a U.S. citizen spouse to live and work in the United States. Having a green card will ensure them “a permanent resident” status until they decide to apply for U.S. citizenship or going for adjustment of status, which they can do after three years.
Here, we will make short guidelines for those who want to apply for a green card and become a permanent resident without scrolling through a bunch of information on the internet.
We believe you will have plenty of questions after reading it since immigration law, so don’t hesitate to contact our law firm and get legal help from one of our experienced immigration attorneys who can lead you through all visa processes, answer immigration questions, or help you adjust status.
How To Become a U.S. Permanent Resident by Obtaining a Green Card Through Marriage?
When you want to obtain a green card through marriage and become a permanent resident, the process will require you to follow these three steps:
- Submitting Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative);
- Completing Form I-485 or Form DS-260 and gathering supporting documents
- Attending the green card interview and await approval
To guide you through each of these steps, we prepared this article in the way it can show you and lead you to petition your green card through marriage, including important steps and helpful links to other relevant articles on our blog, official U.S. Citizenship, and Immigration Service website, or other U.S. government websites where you can learn more thoroughly about the whole green card application process and permanent residence path.
But, needing to know more specific details regarding your immigration situation as a married couple, be free to seek legal help from our law firm.
Step 1: Submitting Form I-130
The first step to obtain a green card and ensure permanent residence status as a spouse of a U.S. citizen is to submit a Form I-130 petition. You or your spouse must file the I-130 petition in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The USCIS is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and it will be the primary contact point for you in this process. Their website will be the relevant source of required documentation and up-to-date information on the green card application process.
Along with the I-130 form, you have to prepare some supporting documentation. The primary purpose in this phase is to establish that your marriage exists and it is valid.
U.S. citizens or those who currently hold green cards file this form with the USCIS and they are called the “petitioner” or “sponsor.” The foreign spouse, the one seeking a green card is called the “beneficiary” or “green card applicant
Get help from an attorney from Herman Legal Group by contacting us on (+1) (800) 808-4013 or (+1)(614) 300-1131, or you can complete our online contact form for a free initial consultation. .”
What documents should you prepare for the Green Card Marriage Interview?
Make sure to submit the following papers:
- Proof that you paid the U.S. government the filing fee, which is $535 (this is only for Form I-130, not the total cost for adjusting status)
- Evidence that the sponsoring spouse is a U.S. citizen (copy of the birth or naturalization certificate, or a photo of a valid U.S. passport) or permanent resident (copy of the sponsor’s green card)
- Proof of a legally valid marriage (a marriage certificate)
- Proof that the marriage is not fraudulent (joint bank account statements, a joint lease, and pictures together, other evidence related to your marriage)
- Evidence of termination of previous marriage (a divorce document).
Once you prepare the I-130 filing package, you have to mail it to the appropriate address. USCIS Service Center you send your petition depending on where you live and filing Form I-485 concurrently.
Then, you will receive an official acknowledgment (“receipt notice”). Typically, it takes USCIS about two weeks to mail this receipt to the sponsoring spouse.
If USCIS deems that the information you provided is sufficient to decide upon your case, within 2–3 months, you may receive a Request for Evidence (RFE). Once they get everything they need, they will make a final decision on your petition. Usually, this takes 7–15 months, depending on your situation.
Note: Due to the COVID-19, USCIS announced it is adopting a measure to assist applicants and petitioners responding to requests for evidence (RFEs). More about temporary measures you can find here.
If you receive notice that your I-130 form has been approved, you may process to the next step: ensuring eligibility for a green card of your spouse.
Step 2: Completing I-485 or DS-260 forms and gathering supporting documents
There are two different processes to determine a spouse’s eligibility for a green card. The USCIS will take into account whether your spouse lives in the United States or abroad.
When Applicant Living in the United States
If your spouse seeking a green card is physically in the United States, then he or she must file Form I-485 (“Adjustment of Status” application) at the same time and get a green card without having to leave the U.S.
Documents to prepare within the I-485 filing package:
- Government-Issued Identity Document (a passport valid for at least six months beyond your planned date of entry into the U.S, a driver’s license)
- Birth Certificate (or an explanation why it cannot be provided).
- Inspection and admission or Inspection and Advance Parole
- Documentation of your immigrant category.
- Marriage certificate and other proof of relationship.
- Evidence of continuously maintaining lawful status.
- Affidavit of Support or Confirmation of Bona Fide Job Offer or Request for Job Portability Under INA Section – unless a job offer is not required.
- Proof of Financial Support
- Report of medical examination and vaccination record (Form I-693)
- Filing fees of $1,225 ($1,140 for the green card application and $85 for biometrics)
If you are a U.S. citizen
Your spouse must include the I-485 filing package, the I-130 form, and supporting documentation. We already described those in Step 1. This process is known as a “concurrent filing.”
You may concurrently file your Form I-485 only when the underlying immigrant petition’s approval would make a visa immediately available to you.
If you are a green card holder
Your spouse cannot submit the I-485 filing visa package until the USCIS determines that a marriage green card is available in the visa bulletin. Here, you will see that there are various annual caps. The wait time differs, and currently, it is about one and a half years.
Note that this can vary by a few months, depending on the spouse’s home country seeking a green card. Once the I-485 filing package is submitted, you can expect that processing time is 9–11 months.
Read this for more explanation on concurrent filing and learn how to check your place in the visa queue.
When Applicant is not Living in the Country
The process differs from those who are physically present in the country. If you or your spouse are not currently in the U.S, your visa application package must be filed with the National Visa Center (NVC), which will gather the necessary forms and documents.
NVC is a division of the U.S. Department of State that plays an important role in processing immigrant visa applications as well as a fiance(e) visa applications. Upon completing the documentation, NVC will decide whether the spouse is ready for an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad (a “consular processing”).
Documents to include with the filing package:
- Government filing fees- $445 ($120 for the financial support form and $325 for the State Department processing fee)
- Form DS-260
- Nationality of the spouse who seeks a marriage green card (copy of the birth certificate and passport photo)
- A police clearance certificate for the spouse seeking a marriage-based green card
- Evidence that the U.S. citizen, sponsoring spouse, will be able to financially support the spouse seeking a green card through marriage (including Form I-864, or “Affidavit of Support,” and evidence such as tax returns and pay stubs)
Step 3: Attending the Interview
The last step to undertake in the green card application process is to attend the green card marriage interview led by the officer, who will aim to assess your marriage’s authenticity. You will have to take the proper preparation to avoid giving vague answers and make the interviewing officer suspect in your statements.
There are certain documents to bring, and after USCIS officers assess them, they will ask you questions to determine whether your relationship is genuine.
People make common mistakes that make the interviewing officer suspicious that marriage or relationship might be fraudulent, so make sure to get prepared for the green card interview.
If the officer is satisfied with answers and sees no irregularities in documents, the green card for your spouse will be approved.
Where you will attend the Interview?
The green card marriage interview location depends on where the spouse seeking a green card currently lives.
- Your spouse is currently in the U.S.: you will both be invited to the local USCIS office, and the green card will be mailed within 2-3 weeks of the approval.
- Your spouse lives outside the United States: they will go to a U.S. embassy or consulate in the home country. In this case, as a sponsoring spouse, you will not be invited.
- If approved, the spouse applying for a green card will receive a visa stamp in the passport and be allowed to travel to the U.S.
- Before a physical green card can be issued, which usually takes between 2-3 weeks, the fee that must be paid is $220.
What Can You Expect After The Marriage Green Card Interview?
The U.S. immigrant officer will usually bring the decision right away whether you get a green card. But, in some cases:
- You can receive an RFE.
- USCIS can conduct an additional application review.
- USCIS can schedule the Stokes interview
If the application has been approved, the officer will put the stamp in the immigrant passport, valid for 30 days as a green card. The green card will arrive by mail in the next 60 days.
If you have been married to a U.S. citizen for less than two years
The spouse will receive a CR1 (or “conditional”) green card, which is valid for two years. You will have to submit Form I-751 ( “Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence”) within the 90-day before the expiration of the conditional green card.
When USCIS receives it, they will re-evaluate your marriage, making sure it is authentic and that you as a couple did not get married only for immigration purposes.
If you have been married to a U.S. citizen for more than two years
Your spouse will receive an IR1- “immediate relative” immigrant visa. This is a “permanent” green card that will be valid for ten years. The good news is that usually, renewing this green card is a straightforward process. It will not require you to prove the authenticity of your marriage again to stay a permanent resident.
We provide u.s. immigration services to our clients across the U.S. but also around the globe. We can help you apply for an immigrant and nonimmigrant visa, get a green card, adjust your status, and prepare all required documents throughout the immigration process.
You can contact us any time, and get help from our immigration attorney. You can use the online form or call us at (+1) (800) 808-4013 or (+1)(614) 300-1131. Our law firm is available any time 24/7 and will look through your case and make a unique strategy according to it.